How to Study the Bible (Proverbs)

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

How to Study the Proverbs – Audio.mp3 

Planet Earth and Genres

Jenny has been sick frequently over the past several months. One of our favorite things to do when she is sick is to snuggle and watch Planet Earth. I found the complete 6 disc set at a closeout sell several years ago. We are watching the series for the second time and I noticed something about the series last week. There are 3-4 different categories of terrain on each disc. Mountains, Caves, Ice Worlds, Fresh Water, Jungles, Great Plains, etc. Each category of terrain has different animals, unique scenery, and particular dangers. You are not going to find lions on the DVD covering deep sea creatures. Nor should you expect to see cuddly koalas in the footage of the Swiss Alps. The producers of Planet Earth have separated the globe into different genres in order to help their viewers navigate the incredible beauty that they have captured on film. This is precisely what we are attempting to due in this series on how to study the Bible. We want the full HD experience.

 Wisdom books include: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job

Proverbs are common observations about living life before God in a fallen world

Wisdom is learning from God, trusting Him and following His Word.

Folly is rejecting God’s instruction either intentionally or unintentionally and thereby living disobediently.

Misinterpretations of Proverbs

1. Proverbs are usually not water-tight

The emphasis is on a common observation.

  • Proverbs 13:4 – The goal is to collect the particular point the author is trying to make. Not to cross examine it like a lawyer. Proverbs 13:4 does not intend to say there will never be lazy rich people who have inherited masses of cash. This verse is a common observation about the way life usually operates.
  • Proverbs 11:24 – The goal of 11:24 is not to say that the stingy never have an increase in wealth. The point is to say that God honors those who give generously and provides for them. But this should not be a license to give recklessly to the point of going in debt! This would be a misapplication of this verse.

2. Not all proverbs are promises

The emphasis is on an observation.

  • Proverbs 22:6
  • Proverbs 13:25 – Does this proverb mean the righteous will never experience hunger?
  • Proverbs 3:4-6 – If a proverb is rooted in the nature of God or is supported by other passages of Scripture, it can be taken as a promise.

3. Proverbs do not produce Pharisees

The emphasis is on living before God.

  • Proverbs 3:5-7 – The very definition of fear means trusting God.
  • Proverbs 4:4, 23; 15:11 – Proverbs is concerned with the heart.
  • Proverbs 15:26; 16:5 – Rightly understood, Proverbs does not produce Pharisees
  • Proverbs 16:6; 28:13-14 – Proverbs points to the gospel.

4. Proverbs do not mask reality.

The emphasis on living in a fallen world.

  • Proverbs 11:16 – This is a sad but honest assessment of life in a fallen world.
  • Proverbs 13:23 – This proverb observes the cold reality of oppression and cruelty in the world. Many poor people in parts of the country are trying hard to make it in life, but are unable do to the oppression of governments, rich bosses, or society.

Tip: Read slowly and speedily.

This is a new development for me. When I first read Proverbs all in one sitting, I was stunned by the themes that emerged. I had only read Proverbs one chapter at a time and I had missed out on the fullness of the book! There is much to benefit in reading only one section a day (this is the lingering we talked about in the 5 basic attitudes of Bible study). Yet there are several themes that emerge when reading through any book. You begin to notice phrases that sound similar, key words that are used often and connections to phrases you never saw before. It is similar to when Planet Earth zooms in on a rain tree frog jumping in slow motion and then zooming out to survey the breathtaking ridges of the entire rainforest from space. Both are stunning and both invoke worship.

Some Themes in Proverbs

  • Tongue (11:11-13; 12:6, 23; 14:5, 25; 15:7; 16:27-28)
  • Adultery (5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27)
  • Work (6:6-11; 10:4-5; 12:27)
  • Money (11:4, 7, 16, 24; 13:11; 14:20)

If you are struggling in one of these areas, I have found it helpful to read through the book of Proverbs highlighting the particular theme you need help with and meditating on these passages.


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